"Australians love an underdog" - Humble Quakers Hill excited for David vs Goliath cup clash
Quakers Hill Juniors are one of the biggest clubs in the Blacktown football association. However, the club faces its biggest challenge as they prepare to take on NPL NSW giants Sydney United 58 in the Australia Cup tomorrow night.
Four tiers separate Quakers Hill and Sydney United on the NSW football pyramid. But the association side is relishing every moment leading up to a historic Australia Cup match up.
The green and white grassroots club were founded in 1968. They represent Quakers Hill's proud community in Sydney's northwest and are led by coach Julian Baumbach.
Baumbach recently gave FPF insight into the club and their footprint within the local community.
"Quakers Hill Juniors have one of the richest histories in the Blacktown football association," Baumbach, the Premier League first grade and reserve grade coach, said.
"Before the Blacktown football association was created, Quakers Hill were playing in the Nepean football association and moved across later to its current association.
"We're celebrating our 55th year this year. We've won quite a few Premier League titles. We are the most successful club in Blacktown when it comes to the Premier League first and reserve grade combined."
Despite Quakers Hill Juniors being one of the larger clubs in the Blacktown football association, the club shares a unique relationship with local community sponsors.
"We always look at ways to make sure we can benefit from our sponsors whilst creating a strong team bonding environment, " Baumbach said.
"Quakers Inn is an example; after our games, we go to the Quakers Inn, and they generously put on some food, and we're able to bond there, have a bite, have a drink. It's humbling to use our local sponsors, such as Quakers Inn, to thank them for their support but also to create a positive bonding environment within the squad."
This season is Baumbach's first coaching Quakers Hill Juniors' first and reserve grade squads, whilst he also contributes to the U21s. He has emphasised youth development as a critical factor for the club and playing group.
"The participation numbers at Quakers Hill Juniors are always high. Of course, it has dropped a bit due to COVID-19; however, we still boast one of the largest football participations in the association," Baumbach added.
"Establishing relationships between the juniors and seniors at the club is something I've always wanted to do when I first came into the club.
"When I took the U20s last year, I encouraged each player to take a junior team (to coach/assist with), and a lot of them did, which was very pleasing.
"Grassroots football is essentially the foundation of football in this country, and we need to get that right to compete on the world stage.
"The connection that we have between different age groups at the club is tight-knit and is only going to get closer year by year."
In the 2022 season, Quakers Hill's first grade sits first on the BDSFA Deploy Football Premier League ladder, with three wins from four matches. But Baumbach believes there is room for improvement.
"Between the squad (U21s, reserves, and first grade), we have been doing well, and everyone is contributing," he said.
"I wouldn't say we are completely content with our start. The results look good, but there is still work to do.
"I believe we haven't scored as many goals as the dominance we have had in our games, but overall I am pleased with how we are going in 2022."
The Quakers Hill Juniors playing group is a mix of youth and experience and grassroots and NPL experience who have been together for a long time.
"The playing group is very close with each other; they've been together for a number of years. A lot of them have played for years together, and some have been [in the] juniors since U5s and now are in our first-grade team," Baumbach said.
"It's very mixed; everyone comes from different walks of life, different jobs, different backgrounds, different experiences.
"One of our players has played professionally over in Valencia, Spain. There are a few NPL-experience players, so it's a collective mix of players with different experiences in the one squad, which is fantastic."
After eliminating Kellyville Kolts in the first round of the Australia Cup, a victory against Springwood United stood in the way of Quakers Hill securing a clash with NPL NSW heavyweights Sydney United.
"You don't need that much motivation to come up against a club of that pedigree, with only [one] result standing in your way," Baumbach said.
"Against Springwood United, I had to use a hybrid squad of our reserve grade and U21s, as we had a few first graders out. I was very pleased with how the players conducted themselves, knowing we would play against Sydney United in the next round if we won.
"To win with the squad I put out there (against Springwood United) was pleasing. It has given me a lot of headaches for squad selection heading into the Sydney United fixture."
Quakers Hill Juniors defeated Springwood United 4-1 at Blacktown Football Park to secure a special meeting against Sydney United 58. It is a club that has produced many Socceroo internationals, such as Mile Jedinak and Tony Popovic.
For Baumbach, the game will mean a lot to him personally, having been a vivid supporter of United since he was a child.
"During the old NSL days, one of the very first matches I attended was a Sydney United match at Edensor Park," Baumbach said.
"I had a Croatia kit from the 1998 World Cup and climbed the fences when they scored, so I'm very aware of Sydney United and the success they have had over the years.
"I played against them as a junior, and as I said, I'm very aware of who they are as a club, their stature, and the current squad.
"The playing group also know who they are up against. It's not every day an association side plays against NPL1 quality, so the playing group is relishing this opportunity and looking forward to it.
"Even if Sydney United play mostly their U20s squad, they're still NPL1 quality; there's a reason they are playing for one of the biggest clubs in NSW."
With just a day left before their Australia Cup clash, the mood in the Quakers Hill playing group remains calm.
"The mood amongst the players is quite relaxed," Baumbach said.
"I've said to them that there is absolutely no pressure on us.
"There's no point of going into any game or competition just for fun. We always aim to win, and I'll be honest, although I don't expect us to defeat Sydney United, at the end of the day, it's a big day for the club, and we are very excited."
Baumbach expressed that the game against United was the biggest of his career as well as for the players.
"Without doubt, I think this is the biggest game I will ever be involved in, and for the players, potentially the biggest game in their lives," he said.
"We're hoping to get a good crowd on Thursday night, and we encourage the Quakers Hill community to come out.
"Australians love an underdog story, and anything can happen on any particular day.
"All I can ask from the playing group is that we enter the game with the right mentality and attitude.
"Cupsets have happened before throughout various tournaments in the world, as we've seen with the FA Cup in England and Australia with the Australia Cup.
"This 'what if we can do it' is the beautiful part of cup football. No matter which team you are up against, it depends on which team turns up with the right attitude and mentality to play.
"It's only one match. So many things can happen between those 90 or 120 minutes, so it is extremely important we rock up with the right attitude come game day."
Quakers Hill Juniors will host Sydney United 58 in the Australia Cup tomorrow night at Valentine Sports Park, Glenwood, at 7:00pm AEST.
For more featured articles on the Australia Cup like this one, click here.